Standing Desk Day 1

A few things came together in the last month to make me try a standing desk yesterday.

1. My lower back was hurting. I had lower back surgery when I was 21 and I felt some of the same pain coming back. This was not good. Plus, it always seemed worse when I sat down for a long time.

2. I have been working on this pinball project. It required me to stand up and sit down a lot. It also was in another part of the office with a crappy wooden chair instead of my fancy Aeron. It didn’t help the back problems.

3. Some of my friends tried it and they liked it. I got to test it at Max’s house for a few minutes and thought it could work.

4. I thought that it would make me actually WORK more. It would limit my time at a desk and hopefully make that time more precious and productive.

So, in trying to fix my back, and be more healthy and productive, I tried it. I went to Home Depot and got a few cinder blocks. Turns out 16″ (the size of one block) was the perfect amount to raise the desk to make it a good height for standing. No new desk, not expensive. A few bucks and some rearranging and I was standing.

Day one wen’t pretty well. It was about 5 hours on my feet and I was definitely getting a bit sore. I did feel tired at the end of the day, but in a good way. In a “I actually worked today” kind of way. I’m currently writing this half way into day two and I definitely feel more productive. It’s not as easy (or comfortable) to watch an hour long youtube interview or another damn TED talk. I find, so far, that I am propelled to get shit done. I also moved the pinball project to the desk as well, so I can easily go back and forth without sitting in a crappy chair, or getting up a lot to test it. Extra Bonus? Dancing while working is now an option. Pretty fun!

I will let you know how it goes after a month or so. Have any of you tried a standing desk?

UPDATE: I now work in a shared office and don’t have the ability to customize my desk like this. But, I have experimented with sitting on yoga balls and other weird looking seats with good results. I used the standing setup above for about 9 months and still recommend it for anyone who wants to try a standing desk inexpensively.

39 Comments

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  • Hi Nick,

    Sorry to hear about your bad back. You don’t think it could be something to do with your Edward Scissorhands/ michael Jackson dancing, could it? πŸ˜‰ I loved that video, you were so cute!!!!!

    Anyway, seriously, I’ve had a bad back for years so thought I’d offer suggestions that have helped me. I also tried a standing desk but I found that I started to develop different problems so I gave up on that.

    What really helped me was swimming. I go 3 times a week for an hour each time. I started with 20 minutes and gradually built up to 1 hr, 20 mins but have now cut back to 1 hour.

    t took a while to get into it but now I love it. i use the time to think about ideas, I also have an underwater enclosure for my ipod so i listen to music too sometimes.

    Anyway, cut a long story short, it’s helped enormously. My back feels great now and I very seldom have problems.

    Well, I hope this helps. Love your work, keep it up, standing, sitting, break-dancing or lying – It’s all good! πŸ™‚

    Angie

      • I second swimming. I do it 3 times a week and find it amazing for the whole body. My Dad is almost 70 and has fused vertebrae in his spine. Hes been swimming competitively his whole life. A doctor told him recently that if he wasn’t still swimming 5 times a week he probably wouldn’t be able to walk.
        Masters swimming is super well organized and easy to get into at any age. You should check it out.

  • Haha, nice! My roommate did the same thing, but he spent the extra cash to get a mechanical desk that goes up and down. I think yours is cooler. πŸ™‚

  • one of my co workers stands at his desk and works all night like that
    he’s a bit older then me too, but
    i couldn’t do it, my legs and back would be killing me.
    We do have these really cool desks at my job that rise up and down to whatever
    height you want with just the push of a button, no cinderblocks needed!

  • I read a book by Walter Murch (film editor – Apocalypse Now, Godfather trilogy) and he swore by working at a raised desk, for the same reasons you’ve mentioned. Would definitely like to give it a try. Look forward to hearing how you get on.

    Chris.

  • I switched to a standing desk about 6 months ago, and Love it. I enjoy the physical fatigue at the end of the day like you said, It gives me a better sense of accomplishment. The biggest problem I had was finding a reasonably priced desk. (The wife would not approve a makeshift-cinder-block-enhanced desk). I ended up settling on the “printer’s project desk set” from pottery barn (currently no longer available) for around $700.

  • I had lower back surgery when I was 31 (I’m 35 now) and I also face the same problem of lower back pain once in a while. One thing I’m sure, the more time I spend sitting without getting up from the chair, the more likely I will have pain the next few days. I guess the trick is to make frequent pauses during work, for example, 5 minutes every half an hour or 10 minutes every hour. (Honestly I hardly do that) but I feel better when I’m able to do that. I can teel you Nick, that all the lower back crisis I had happened after spending many hours sitting, and a lot of stress doesn’t help either. Also, staying a long time standing will cause different problems, I garantee you.
    The best thing to do is to practice (no impact) sports in a regular basis (specially swimming like Angie suggested) and avoid being many hours standing or sitting without making any pauses.
    I know it’s hard. It is for me too, because time just flies when I’m working on the computer and 2 or 3 hours many times seem like 10 or 20 minutes. That’s why I bought a “kitchen” timer to put on top of the desk to remind me of making regular pauses. πŸ™‚

  • I first heard about doing this from Walter Murch’s book , In the Blink of an Eye (must read for video and film editors). It’s a great idea.

    You should add a therapeutic floor mat to cut down on ankle knee and foot strain.

  • I worked as a National Directory Assistant. They had electronic adjustable standing desks that you could push a button and it would stand-up or push it and have it go back down so you could sit. I think I’d prefer an adjustable option for the fatigue purposes.

  • I had thought of buying a desk that goes up and down a while ago but they were to expensive, I record and play guitar/bass/program music and thought standing up would give me a more live vibe by being able to move around like on stage, it sucks having to lean over to pause/rewind/punch in.
    I really want to try this, I was thinking someone can make a whole sitting desk from scratch this way, 1 layer of blocks then 1 layer of wood with a cutout where the legs would go, then 2nd layer of blocks and 2nd wood with same cutout until maybe the 4th layer with a whole piece of wood finishing off the top, that way each wood layer would act as a shelf.

  • Nice, I’m always working on standing desk, using architecture’s desk. That’s the best way for me. Welcome in the standing team πŸ˜‰

  • I have used a standing desk for over 10 years. My setup was much simpler though. I just put a box under my keyboard (or laptop) and adjust the screen. The boxes that reams of paper are delivered in work well – as do boxes holding 12-packs of beer (but put the beer in the fridge first πŸ™‚ ).

    For added benefit, stand with your feet pigeon-toed (pointing inward with your ankles facing out). This tilts the hips and places your center of gravity more squarely over the pelvis.

    For anyone who has back issues, I highly recommend the book called “Pain Free”. The best $11 investment I’ve made so far. Read the first 3 chapters, and do the exercises (just get past the 80’s models). This book not only saved me from back pain, but educated me on preventing and strengthening core muscles. Note – I don’t make any money from this endorsement, I simply know it works and tell everyone I can about it.
    http://www.amazon.com/Pain-Free-Revolutionary-Stopping-Chronic/dp/0553379887/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326223395&sr=1-1

  • I feel your pain Nick. I had massive back pains from working long periods. I switched to higher table with these http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00144763/ had a jerker table too before πŸ™‚ but the biggest thing for me was Salli Twin saddle chair http://www.salli.com/default.asp?siteid=en&id=Chairs_Salli_Twin_usa

    I was sceptic at first, especially after seeing Conan make a big joke out of this Twin version that is testicle friendly for us guys, haha! But it did change my free time as the back pains were soonΒ gone. It took few weeks to learn to use it and you gotta pay attention to how you sit on it, but that’s sort of the whole point.. Now I work about 60% sitting and rest of the time standing, no fiddling around lifting and lowering the table or the chair. My back has never been better. They offered me a deal to return it if I didn’t like it, pretty sure it’s the same deal in the US too. I bet I sound like a salesman..

  • I have my adjustable sit stand desk arriving in Feb. I can’t wait to try it out.
    I spoke to my chiropractor about it to see if it’s better than sitting, and he seems to think so, as long as you keep adjusting your feet position, otherwise the lower back will lock up.
    He suggested a small wooden box to raise one foot on, and alternate feet throughout the day. I’m going to get a cheap treadmill, pull the side support arms off and put it under my desk so I can keep moving throughout the day.
    Let us know how it goes though nick.

  • If you can’t swing the standing thing, you could always go to a kneeling chair/desk. An old co-worker of mine swears by it… there’s less butt wiggling, however…

  • I saw the post and was excited to see it. I attended a school that used stand up desks for us designers and loved it. On a different note, I have bad circulation in my legs, and 6 months ago a buddy of mine sold me a random ikea desk (adjustable) for 20 bucks. I raised it perfect for my height and I stand while I work and have a $7.00 wooden bar stool from a garage sale in case I need to sit and rest. My productivity has increased in that I spend more of my time making cool shit instead of looking at cool shit. Thanks for the post… hope it works out for you!

  • I used to have back problem and i’ve solved that practicing yoga. i feel way much better, not only my back or neck, but the whole body. once a week is enough twice better
    ciao

  • This is awesome! We had some standing desks at college and I always felt more comfortable with them, I think I was the only one.
    This inspired me to go out today and buy some cinder blocks, although in Australia we call them besser blocks. I am now standing as I write this.
    Thanks Nick!

  • Cool Nick!I try it and it’s pretty helpful !One question if you don’t mind!What kind of Pen tablet do you Use or any recommendation for a great one for Motion graphic designer! Merci

  • Hey Nick!

    I try to work on a standing table at my apprenticeship. Friday was my first day and my legs hurt pretty much. But I think it’s because I’m not used to stand for such a long time, but I decided to stand more often because I usually sit for about 15 hours a day!
    Regards

  • Dancing while working is always a plus. I think if you got one of those fatigue mats for your feet you’d be in much better shape. Not sure how much they cost but i worked as a cashier for many years before realizing my life’s mission and i spent many hours standing on one of them. lemme tell ya…it makes a big difference!

    hope your back feels better!

  • really good IDEA!!!

    By the way Nick, I had same problems with me lower back and what I did is jogging. Running on a stadium once or twice a week fixed my problems and I don’t have these problems anymore.

    But of course sitting 8 hours a day is not good option.

  • Hi Nick!!

    I was looking for some “standing desk” cheap ideas AND testimonials too. What a simple but GREAT short article you wrote here!
    I am suffering from sedentarity due to my psychic disease (how I hate these naughty, naughty, naughty burn-out/bore-in and their sequels…) and of course, obesity is my new world and w.o.r.d. Damn.
    Thanks for your cheap idea and for the picture. I do not know why I have not had this idea… My brain is O.O.O., that’s sure!!! πŸ™‚
    OK, first step: find a good desk for a laptop (MacBook Air) and a good 27″ screen, plus a Wacom digitizer.
    Thanks for all, Nick!!!

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